Sunday, 30 October 2011

Come on and celebrate

Christians are often referred to as killjoys because they object to some of the celebrations and excesses of those who don't believe. This time of year is one such, Halloween or to give it its proper title - All Hallows Eve, the evening before the celebration of All Saints day.
All Saints - Sweden

However we might think of Halloween and there are plenty of web sites giving the history from all sorts of perspectives, others that denigrate the stance of some Christians (like me) who don't take part in the ghoulish dressing up and partying. Recently I have had a few chats with folks asking me what they as Christians should do, be involved, go to the parties, keep their children out of school dances celebrating Halloween by dressing up etc.?

Its easy for us to "put it down" and blame Satan for corrupting people but is it enough for us to opt out? We are called to be salt and light in a very broken world. Maybe that means that we need to engage in a way that does not compromise our faith or celebrate evil or darkness. Have fun while celebrating all that Christ has done through his Church and through all of those who have loved him and served him. Offering alternatives, being able to explain without judging others our position on Halloween (for example), giving treats with an invite to find something out about Jesus.

Jesus went to parties mixed it with those who didn't know God and drew them to him - his Church should be doing the same getting among people, making comment by what they do for others, drawing others to celebrate Christ - once people experience the real thing celebrations like Halloween will be as nothing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Finding space for wonder

A number of folks have let me know they are not getting updates. For those who have had trouble getting this via Facebook - try using the "follow by email" - it uses a Feedburner that should send you and email when there has been an update.

Another way if you have a twitter account is to follow on twitter where they are posted as well.

A couple of things recently got me thinking about the lives we lead and the need for rest, relaxation or quiet.

Part of the three peaks from Corn-du
Behind the falls
Earlier in the month I took three days out and spent them with one of my brothers in the Brecon Beacons, walking, chilling and relaxing. For me there is nothing at all like the beauty and majesty of God's creation to help me find a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind.

Standing behind a waterfall, water rushing over the falls with a sound like thunder, the air damp with spray, the water splashing and foaming - so very primeval, nature in the raw and so incredible. On another day we climbed a few small peaks - Pen-y-Fan, Crybin, Fan-y-big and at times as the clouds broke we could see the sun peeking through laying furrows of golden light on the hillsides, contrasting with the darkness of the clouds. Maybe a dim reflection of God's glory and a reminder of how amazing and wonderful God is.

One the last day we climbed Corn-du, the clouds cleared and the view was incredible we could see the peaks and the paths we had walked the day before - the view is breathtaking, magnificent and awesome. My Father made all of this for me to play on!

Last week I met with a bunch of other new pastors for a reflection day, periods of instruction, quiet, reflection and listening at Clare Priory in Suffolk. Again once I let the busy state of my mind subside I was able to listen to the gentle words of encouragement that God had for me. What a wonder that God is interested in me!

So often our lives are dictated by the must do, the must achieve, the deadlines, the push to reach the next goal - driven by purpose and plan with each new idea and task adding to the burden. I wonder who's agenda we actually follow - ours or Christ's - my yolk is easy and my burden is light Jesus tells us, but our programs and plans load us more heavily than a camel in the desert laden for the market.

If we don't find those quiet, reflective places where we can decouple and relax and hear God more clearly we risk missing his voice altogether in among the meetings and plans and lists. As one of the busy periods for church comes I know that my time out will help me hear more clearly and so keep the burden light.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Peace and Reconcilliation

I am certain that we have all come across situations in our families, churches, friend groups and colleagues that we could easily term hostile. I have experienced all of these at various times and at times have wondered how to handle them sometimes wanting to respond in anger or self-righteous indignation.

Rom 5:1 tells us that those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour have peace with God - our rebellion not only ended but paid for, by Christ. But how can we apply this to our own lives as we react, provoke or are the victim of other peoples' angst and hostility?

Well God's example is to provide the means for us to be reconciled through Christ's death and resurrection, quite a price, quite an example ... For us perhaps the action we can take is to reflect before acting, consider our anger or hurt and how we might overcome it by taking it to Christ in prayer and asking his help in moving on from it.

From a position where the emotional first response has been diffused, we might better figure out how to reconcile without judgment or needing to feel superior. In my family this has helped me restore some relationships between myself and siblings, in churches it has helped me bring correction without judgment or healing without condemnation and in the workplace has helped me understand better and so be able to work with those who I would otherwise have found it impossible.

Paul sums up his thinking on this in Rom 5:3-5 - trials produce perseverance, perseverance produces experience or character and character produces hope - full circle! Our hope of salvation causes us to behave differently to how we might have if we had not known Christ and the rest follows.

Seek to reconcile and not cause more problems, seek to forgive and not hold grudges, seek to restore relationship and not break it apart. Its a hard path, but then there is nothing easy about walking the path of the disciple.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

I wish I had coined this phrase, but someone in my church came up with it and it fitted a sermon I was preaching in that service beautifully as did the children's talk. One of those God moments when you have been given a tricky scripture to preach and yet you know you must and then things come up in the service that link so clearly that it just has to be God directing.

So whats this "Attitude of Gratitude" all about?

How many of us can say we truly like giving? If we are honest it is not easy to give away what has been hard earned and could be used for so many things ... our season ticket for the team we watch, a newer car, a bigger house, a holiday, a new computer / phone / PDA ... the list is endless.

When we consider giving, and lets keep this to money, and especially giving to our church and thus God's kingdom work, it is tricky - is it a proportion of our income, pre or post deductions, does it include occasional income, interest and so on? If we are having to ask those questions may I suggest we are asking the wrong ones in relation to giving.

The bible tells us that stingy giving results in stingy crops. But theres more, what the whole of 2Cor 9 is telling us it that giving money to God's work is a thought-out, prayed out decision in response in worship to God who has generously, lavishly given to each of us. Christian giving to God's work that is to his kingdom, needs an Attitude of Gratitude from us as a response to God who has already poured out his blessings on each of us.

What God has done through Jesus Christ is to offer us eternal live, salvation and relationship with him - life in its fullness or abundance. No, not everything we want or desire but a fruitful kingdom life where we are storing up treasure in heaven not here and now. A life where we hold lightly all that God gives in a material sense knowing that its been given that we might sow blessings into the kingdom of God through our generous giving. God wants generous givers. So lets work on not being stingy givers but a people with an Attitude of Gratitude for all he has, is and will do for us.

Postscript - after my churches harvest service I was blessed by the offering of foodstuff for our local Foodbank to help those without here and financially to those oversea that other organisations are helping. Generosity is very much a heart attitude ...